August 19th. August 26th. August 27th. August 28th. What do all of these dates have in common? These are the dates that our local colleges and universities start their 2019 Fall Term. It’s that time of year again when you will see the great migration. Students are excited about moving to college. Moms are crying because their babies are leaving, and dads just wish there were more elevators to get stuff to the 4th floor dorm rooms.
Then there are the trips to the stores to get all of the supplies they will need. Not just supplies for classes, but now you have to have all of the extra stuff like a TV, closet organizer, those little plastic drawer things to fit everything they own into a tiny little dorm room, a shower caddy, and all of those other things to make it home.
Yes, it’s a lot. But I want to add a couple more things to think about. I want to talk about keeping your kids financially safe while they are away at school.
We’ve talked about ways to help your kids financially while helping them be independent. Now I want to talk about a few safety-related things. These are little things that may not seem like a big deal. But if you or your student hit a rough patch, these can make a big difference in keeping your kids financially safe.
What’s In A Name? – This is a time in life when your kids are craving independence. That’s fine, and this one is not a contradiction to that. Make sure your name is on your kids’ checking accounts, credit cards, and any other accounts they may have.
First, this allows you to help monitor things like overdrafts and impending credit limits. But it can also be a big help when something does go sideways and you need to help your child fix mistakes. If you aren’t on the account, that organization probably won’t be able to say a word to you. Now you are having to let your child deal with it however far away they are from you or you have to figure out how to do one of those three-way phone calls between you, your child who is the account owner, and the bank or lender.
Let them know that they still need to monitor and maintain the account themselves. This is, after all, more for emergency help than helicoptering.
A Card Carrying Member – My freshman year of college I was playing a pick-up game of basketball for the one gym class I needed to graduate. After shuffling across the lane, I planted, my knee popped, and I was on the floor before I knew what happened. Long story short, I now have two screws in my knee holding the new ACL in place.
I was 4 hours from home, needing to see a doctor, and I didn’t even know my health insurance information, let alone have my insurance card with me. Now, on top of figuring out where to even go and how to get there (no car), I also had to try to get them to see me without having proof of insurance.
I certainly don’t hope this happens to your child. But if it does, are they going to have what they need? Or are they going to be sitting in the waiting room while you try to figure out how to fax a copy of their insurance card to the clinic? (Yes, the medical world still likes fax machines for some reason. Pretty sure they are sitting right next to their VHS and 8-track players.) Make sure your student has their card or at least a copy of it and let them know a copay will probably be collected.
That’s No Polar Vortex – For those of us living in the upper Midwest, the concept of the polar vortex is a very real thing. It is a pool of extremely cold air that Canada sees the need to send down our way. That’s not the freeze I mean here.
No, I’m talking about a credit freeze. When you apply a freeze to a credit bureau report, no one will be able to apply for new credit in that person’s name. Let’s be honest. College living arrangements aren’t usually the most secure settings. A lot of people in a small space. Rooms get left unlocked while you head to the shower. Perhaps the very roommate you live with is a complete stranger prior to moving in. That’s a lot of potential access to whatever personal information your child has in their room.
A credit freeze is a flag on your (or your child’s) credit report. It is now free to put on and, should the need arise, can be removed in less than an hour. But wait, college is all about taking out those student loans, right? Most student loans are need-based rather than looking at credit-worthiness, so credit reports aren’t usually a thing for student loans. Just to be sure, talk with the financial aid office to make sure it won’t be an issue.
As a side bonus, this will help your child resist the temptation of taking out all of those store cards that offer great discounts, rewards programs, and years of payments when they don’t control their spending.
If you want to put the deep freeze on your child’s (or yours) credit report, you can do that online at each of the credit bureaus’ websites. Here are the links:
And there you have it – three ways to keep your kids financially safe while they are at college. It may not seem like much of an issue and certainly may not be for your child. But if an issue does arise, I’m guessing you will be wishing you had been just a little more diligent. Hindsight is, after all, 20/20.
If you would like more help building and protecting the finances of you or your child, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources are here to help. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at 605-330-2700 or by visiting our website. Appointments are available in-person, over the phone, or through our secure internet portal.
written by Breck Miller, CFR Community Relations Coordinator
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net
LSS Center for Financial Resources
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605-330-2700 or 888-258-2227
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